[The Daily News, 28. Dezember 1869]

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The Daily News. Nr. 7382, 28. Dezember 1869. S. 4.
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THE half-social, half-political war which is raging in Wales has scarcely received sufficient notice from the public. They know that there was in the Principality at the last general election an insurrection of the tenant farmers against landlord usurpation of their political rights, that this insurrection was followed by a proscription in which the landlords avenged themselves upon their disobedient vassals; that the matter was mentioned in Parliament, discussed in the press, and made the subject of a conference and a subscription. Beyond this, public knowledge of the matter does not reach, and has not much opportunity of reaching. Indeed, the public are in a fair way to be entirely misinformed about it. The movement in Wales has frightened the landlords and their agents into a yet further movement to suppress information. The evicted tenants are poor, and have no means of calling the world to listen to their story; the evicting landlords are rich, and have access to the public ear. Moreover, difficult as it is to prove a fact, it is singularly hard to prove a motive. A lot of evictions took place directly after an election; they all happened to be the cases of tenants who had voted against the wishes, in some cases against the orders, of their landlords; and of course the natural conclusion is that the evictions took place for political reasons. But as soon as public attention is called to the matter the landlord class takes alarm. They assume an attitude of injured innocence, and declare, like a gentlemanly pickpocket taken in the fact, that the whole charge is a mistake, that the evictions have not taken place and that the tenants were evicted for purely business reasons; that the hardships spoken of are all inventions and that in fact they were the fault of those who suffered them; and various other conflicting pleas. Then, too, the whole landlord class, Liberal and Tory, inclines by nature to the landlord side; and even Liberal politicians of the class mildly apologize for the sins of their brethren, pooh-pooh the tenants’ complaints, and whisper vague suspicions of exaggeration. Conservative journals, of course, follow suit, and but that they “do protest too much”, might make Conservative readers believe that the tenants have done the wrong and the landlords have suffered it. In fact, that is the landlords’ view. They hold that the tenants owed them their votes and broke the confidence and destroyed the goodwill which existed between them and their landlords by daring to vote of their own free-will. And there really seems to be some danger lest the public should be so overborne by protests which proceed on this principle as to believe that the tenants really have cried out for nothing; that the lamb really did foul the stream of which higher up the wolf was drinking; and that the poor creature really almost deserved its doom.

We have before us a number of reports collected by a trustworthy Commissioner of the Cambria Daily Leader, who spent the month of October in gathering and verifying them. The first list of cases given by this gentleman occurred in the county of Caermarthen. On the first estate named there are fourteen tenants on the county register. They were canvassed by the landlord’s agent, and hard pressed at three separate times to vote for the landlord’s candidate. Thirteen of the fourteen, however, voted for the Liberal candidate, and as soon as the election was over all received notice to quit, on the ground that the estate was to be revalued. The re-valuation took place, and to nine of the tenants the farms were offered at the higher price; the other four were refused. In the next estate, which belonged, it is said, to the heir of a man who once stood in the Liberal interest for Cardigan County, four tenants were supporters of the Liberal cause. One worked hard for the Liberal candidate, but was unable from illness to get out and vote, the other three voted Liberal. Three have been since ejected, and one of the three from a house he had himself built, trusting in his landlord’s honour, without protecting himself by a lease. The fourth had been born on the estate, but was ejected from all the land he held as tenant, and even threatened with ejection from buildings he had erected under an agreement for a lease which, though signed, was not stamped. This threat, made before the election, and with distinct reference to it, has for obvious reasons not been carried out. Close by these tenants, in the same parish of Llanybyther, was a nurseryman who had been promised a piece of land, and had got some thousands of plants to put in it, and built some premises conveniently near it. He, too, was pressed to vote by his landlord’s agent for the Conservatives, and as he refused, the land was refused him, and he lost his plants, and his premises were rendered nearly useless. In another parish two farming preachers took an active part in the election. One of them was told before the election “to remember on whose land his bed lay!” the other was an excellent farmer, who had lately spent 100l. in erecting buildings on his land; and they were both reminded after the election on whose lands their beds lay, by being ejected from them. One of these tenants had, before the election, joined, with five others, in a memorial to their landlord, begging that difference of political action might not make any change in the good feeling which had subsisted between them for years. The landlord replied by a haughty letter, which ended by saying, “As you know my wishes, I certainly expect you will vote with me.” The above-mentioned ejected tenant was the only one who after this ventured to vote against the landlord, and he was the only one evicted. In another parish a farmer, with a wife and ten children, dared to vote according to his convictions, relying on the long connection of himself and his family with the estate. He was an excellent farmer, a most upright and conscientious man, and a faithful tenant, but the avenging notice was served on him, and as he knew it to be ruin it broke his heart. The neighbours joined in an earnest appeal to the landlord on behalf of the widow and family; but political proscription knows no mercy, and the appeals were vain. They were turned out, though, happily, they found a good Samaritan who took them in.

The neighbouring county of Cardigan suffered more, perhaps, than Caermarthenshire. No fewer than twenty-three cases are named by the Commissioner of the Cambria Daily Leader, and they are but a part. Some of these are cases of great hardship. One poor man and his wife were confirmed invalids who had lived in a little place many years and made it look like a garden. The man had no vote, but his brother-in-law had and was active in behalf of the Liberal candidate. The landlord punished the brother-in-law through his invalid relatives, by turning then out of their little holding, and on being appealed to by neighbours said, “He is brother-in-law of—, and not one of the family shall remain on my property.” Another man, a lady’s tenant, was prudent enough to remain neutral. He had lived on his farm nearly 20 years, had spent 200l. upon it, and did not want to lose his all. But the lady said that he who was not with her was against her, and turned him out. In another case the tenant’s family had held the farm for 200 years, but he voted for Mr. Richards and was evicted. Another was so good a farmer that in the previous year his landlord had pressed him to add more land to a holding he had farmed for many years. He took it, and when the election came was so hard pressed for a Tory vote that he remained neutral; but in his case too neutrality was fatal, and he got his notice of eviction. Another evicted tenant is 82 years old, and was born on the farm of which he had in due succession become the tenant. He had another qualification for his vote, and, deeming that an excuse for independence, voted conscientiously. But he had been told that his vote was expected to go with his landlord, and that he would be turned out if it did not, and the threat was enforced, and at 82 years old he is turned out to begin the world again. These are only samples of evictions which have set the Principality by the ears. Of course, there is some difficulty in proving that they arose out of the elections, and now that public attention is being called to the subject, the landlords are finding other reasons to explain their conduct. But the public must draw their own conclusions from the facts. These great batches of evictions followed a contested election, and they were evictions of Liberals by Tory landlords. For the first time |59 there was a great uprising of the Welsh farmers to vote according to their Liberal convictions. The movement was successful, and the evictions. The movement was successful, and the evictions followed it. The question for the Liberal party now is, whether this great landlord coup shall strike terror into the Welsh farmers, and be the death-blow of their independence, or shall bring the strong to the succour of the weak, and make the blow recoil on those who dealt it. It is not enough to give the tenants the Ballot, and thus emancipate them forever; those who have already suffered should be compensated, as the Aberystwith Conference has proposed to do. The landlords have thrown down a challenge to all the Liberalism in the country and the Liberal party must pick up the gage of battle, and make them rue it.


  • Social cases. 1869